This Sunday past the 29th of May was Comrades day here in KZN. The Comrades is an ultra marathon of 89km between Pietermaritzburg and Durban. This year was the 86th Comrades and was an up run from Durban to Pietermaritzburg. Next year it will be a down run from Pmburg to Durban.
Comrades was started by a group of ex World War One servicemen, who wanted to do something to commemorate the comradeship they experienced during the war. Back then in the 1920's it was a very casual affair, with stops at pubs along the route to replenish lost fluids. The Comrades has been run almost without a break, except for the war years, during the Second World War.
Today it's a very different story, with a punishing training schedule for would be participants. None of today's Comrades runners would even dream of stopping at a pub for a beer. I stand corrected, but I think if you wished to enter the race you have to deliver proof of having run at least 2 normal marathons and have completed it within the prescribed time. The modern Comrades is an international event with runners coming from all over the world to participate.
The old Comrades spirit lives on though with runners helping each other where nescessary, which is allowed. The more professional athlete's though, have only one goal and that is to win. There is big money at stake. For most though it's a fun thing and a way of pushing your limits.
This years Comrades had 19,600 runners, less than usual, of which 11,374 finished in the prescribed time of 11 hours. The winner for the 3rd time running this year was Stephen Muzhingi of Zimbabwe, who came in at a time of 5:32.45. The ladies section was won by Elena Nurgalieva of Russia at a time of 6:24.11. Her twin sister Olesya came second about 11 seconds after her. Between the two of them they have won the ladies section 8 times in the last 9 years.
Stephen Muzhingi crossing the finish line.
South Africa's Comrades hero is Bruce Fordice who won it 10 times in a row, during the 1980's & 90's. He is still running at an age most of us are sitting in our rocking chairs. The Estcourt athletic club was well represented at this years race and did well, all finishing under the 11 hour cut off time.